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Garth Offline
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Magazine Article
The spanking kind
This extract from The American Home (now Better Homes and Gardens) of April 1948 was kindly sent to us by an anonymous contributor.

I Believe Children Should Be Spanked!

by Jennie P. Bramer

I have just spanked one of my young sons, and the peace that has settled over the household encourages me to say a few words in defence of spanking. And no headshaking, no stern disapproval or dire predictions can make me feel one guilty pang!

I’ll admit quite cheerfully that I am one of those parents who believe in spanking. A recent survey proved that we’re in the majority, despite all that educators have done to reform us, and I think it’s time something was said for our side of the case.

There was once a time when I didn’t believe in spanking. I didn’t believe in it when I didn’t have children – a time which now seems a bleak and barren part of the past. I didn’t believe in spanking when I was so seriously preparing for motherhood. The experience came to me rather late in life, and I approached it with profound awe.

I read everything on the subject of bringing up children, from government pamphlets to Gesell, and became a convert to the ‘no physical punishment for my children’ school. I was convinced that I should, and confident that I could, bring up my children without resorting to physical punishment.

To begin with, I’d had more than average experience, or so I thought. In addition to having studied child psychology at a university, I had done some teaching and had, for one tumultuous summer, turned our rambling suburban home into a glorified camp. “A desirable place for desirable children,” so the advertisements read.

During this period, I had proved that you can manage children without spanking. And just to confound the critics, I’ll say this: now that I have two children, I’m doubly sure I could rear them well without relying on hand or hairbrush. There’s no doubt about it – it can be done.

Then why spank? Simply because there are times when spanking is the easiest, best method of correction – best for the children, easiest for me. I’ve come to believe that punishment should not only fit the crime, but that it should fit the child and the parent. There are times when spanking does that as no other method can.

I believe in spanking because it works! It works just as it did this morning when I spanked my son; it relieves the tension and clears the air. It is easily understood by the child; it can be safely administered by the average parent, and it is a more natural and human method of correction than many of those employed by believers in non-spanking.

It’s not that I don’t believe in progressive education. Theoretically I do, and my children attended one of the most progressive of private schools during their nursery school and kindergarten days.

Nor am I returning to the old-fashioned ways of my own upbringing. I can count the number of spankings I received during my youth, and I sometimes I’ve wished that there could have been more of them and fewer of those ‘serious talks’. I’m sure my sweet, gentle father never spanked in anger and was utterly honest when he said that spanking was more painful to him than to the child.

But I’m not at all sure that the serious talks did not leave a lingering pain, a sense of guilt too heavy for some of his children to cope with as they grew older. Spanking, if properly administered, is more wholesome in its immediate effect than a talk and is less apt to foster that persistent feeling of guilt which psychologists warn us about.

One salubrious effect of spanking, which is often overlooked by those who hold out for other methods of punishment, is the resulting feeling of expiation. No doubt this is childish and immature, but all of us like that sense of somehow atoned for wrongdoing. A child likes to feel that ‘it’s all over now’, that he’s paid the price for his bad behaviour; the slate’s clean, the air clear, and the fresh start made.

A few minutes ago, my young son, the one I just spanked, dashed in with a hug and kiss for me and, with a happy whoop, rushed outdoors to play. It was obvious that he felt carefree and happy again, and that I think is how he should feel. It seems easier for both of us to feel that way after a spanking than after some other punishments. He knows the matter is closed and that it won’t be mentioned again.

On the other hand, I believe that this particular spanking will have some restraining effect on him when next he’s tempted to throw something at his brother who has angered him. (This time it was a roller skate, and the aim was all too good. It could have been a catastrophe in our household.)

In answer to those who argue that aggression should not be met with aggression and that physical force will not curb physical violence, I can only say that I am not talking about whipping or brutal treatment. Parents who treat children with violence are not average parents and are themselves subjects for the courts of the psychiatrist.

I am talking to, and about, those of us who are devoted parents, honestly seeking the best ways to get along with our children. And a lot of us parents do believe in spanking!

What of those parents who may want to spank, but restrain themselves, or of those who do spank and then feel guilty? They might feel less guilty if they gave more thought to when, why, and how to spank, and then made their actions conform to their beliefs. I have done just that, and I can now feel free from any sense of guilt in such matters.

When to spank? It strikes me that there is a period in a child’s life when he is ‘spankable’, when he is too young to have his dignity imperilled by such treatment yet is old enough to understand perfectly the justice of the action. I can well believe that this period varies greatly with different children, but with my own I’ve found that it extends from about three to seven years. A child can understand reason and justice, but to sit down and argue it out is often too trying a process – for both child and parent.

Why a spanking? It’s for those times when, as someone once said, a spanking is ‘itchingly indicated’. Obviously, it would be impossible to make a list of specific actions which call for spanking. The child and the circumstances must decide this for you.

Every parent of ‘average’ children knows that during the early years, a child often behaves in a manner indicated to ‘test out’ the grown-ups. He wants to see how far you will let him go, how bad he can be without incurring your disapproval or arousing your wrath. Fundamentally, of course, he doesn’t want you to let him go too far. He wants to feel the security of your restraint, the comfort of knowing that you never will let him be too bad.

Every mother recognises this behaviour – the defiance, deliberate disobedience, persistent impudence. It is true that children’s natures vary greatly in this respect but I’ve yet to work with a normal, healthy child who won’t sometimes show signs of trying to find out how far he can go by deliberate misbehaviour. Spanking, I find, is the quickest and most sensible way to answer him.

It is at this point, I think, that some of my really ‘progressive’ friends have failed woefully. One mother I know has a seven-year-old daughter who has been under the care of a psychiatrist for the past year. The mother, believing that she was being very ‘modern’, persistently ignored bad behaviour on the part of this child. But being ignored was not at all what the child wanted; she wanted attention, which she never received from her undemonstrative mother.

The mother practised the theory that naughtiness merits no attention, with the unhappy result that the child became increasingly frustrated, and the mother became painfully controlled and suppressed.

I want my children to know that their behaviour receives my attention, that it merits my concern and arouses my anger. Perhaps anger is too strong a word, but the behaviour which provokes it is the only kind which warrants a spanking in our household. The behaviour which evokes other responses, such as sorrow or a sense of failure on the part of the parent, is not a ‘spanking’ offence.

In short, I think parents can spank safely only when they know their fundamental relationship with the child is right. My boys know that I love them and that nothing they do can ever disturb that love. They are too spontaneous in their affection, too eager for me to be with them for me to ever entertain fears that I cannot safely discipline them in whatever way I find easiest and best.

If spanking, which becomes directly and swiftly called for by behaviour, is the easiest way, then I ‘applaud with one hand’. And that’s the method I use; paddles, straps and hairbrushes seem much too harsh.

Another reason why I find spanking advisable at certain times is that besides being a mother, I’m a breadwinner.

Fortunately, I am able to arrange my work so that I’m with my children almost as much as any mother could be. But the time I have to spend with them is precious and important. I don’t want to spend a lot of it figuring out how to get along with them or how best to correct them. I don’t want them to feel that I’m baffled or depressed by their behaviour, that it is unduly serious and that I am unable to cope with it quickly and easily.

At their present ages, at least, I want them to feel that Mother has the situation well in hand. And I don’t want them to carry around with them in later years and picture of their ‘poor, sweet, saintly mother’ struggling to support them.

I want to think of me as a person it was fun to be with, who enjoyed them and never was depressed or overwhelmed by their behaviour, and who was able to punish them if, as and when they needed it. On the other hand, I don’t want to become too much of a pal or forget that a child is always able to find pals of his own age, and that he needs a parent first.

In short, I find that spanking is an efficient way of dealing with minor problems of behaviour (I haven’t had any major ones yet) and that administering a spanking when it is deserved gives me more time and freedom to enjoy my children.

If it sounds as though I spank habitually and frequently, let me hasten to correct that impression. If spankings were required constantly, I would regard that, in itself, as proof that the method was a failure. If one wants statistics, I should say that the average rate is not more than once or twice a month.

It has been consistently higher for one child than for the other, but he’s that kind of child. And I’m that kind of mother – the spanking kind.

GARTH
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11-05-2019 09:07 PM
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Anymouse Offline
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RE: Magazine Article
Nice article, some interesting arguments in this context. Nice to see spanking defended on merits outside of casting doubt on progressive education methods, and an emphasize on the short term/long term benefits.

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11-06-2019 01:57 AM
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DJJ Online
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RE: Magazine Article
My sister felt the same way. She thought she
was going to have a child which physical punishment
wouldn’t be necessary, until he turned 3, her opinion
changed too

DJ
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11-06-2019 03:01 AM
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BadMom78 Online
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RE: Magazine Article
This is very interesting. Although I can't say I agree 100%, she makes some good arguments. I also think that for most children, it's entirely possible to raise them well without spanking.

In fact, I would say that a parent that reasons with their kids without spanking would have better long-term results than a parent who just spanks without attempting to communicate meaningfully with their kids. Communication is what's really important. The spanking is just reinforcement in a different "language".
11-06-2019 12:09 PM
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Henry Offline
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RE: Magazine Article
I am glad she mentioned expiation.
It's what makes the difference for us.
11-07-2019 04:19 PM
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Sarah Online
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RE: Magazine Article
Wow, wow, wow. I love this article so much. It is clear and well written in the positive effects of a spanking. And, like she is careful to say, she does mean a spanking, and not a beating or any sort of abuse. I think the biggest difference between the two, other than the obvious harshness and violence of abuse, is that a spanking signifies love, caring, control, and correction, while abuse is the exact opposite in that it shows the kid that the parent is angry, out of control, and makes them question their parent's love. It is the time immediately after a spanking that I am reminded and know just how much my parents love me: they understand me, understand what I need, and understand that my sister and I need and actually crave their attention, guidance, and correction.

I wish people who say that spanking is bad could read this article and really understand it. It is exactly why I do plan on being a mother who raises her children with spankings. For me, and I think for my sissy, our spankings have been among the most important and defining experiences in our lives. I felt bad as a kid when my parents tried sending me to my room to "think" about my actions for the modern version of time out, and I felt that same sadness and guilt as a teen the few times I've been grounded.

I would much, much, rather have my Daddy put me over his lap and give me a spanking that clears the air and wipes my slate clean than be forced to sit and stew in my guilt for hours and days. Of course, no kid likes getting spanked when it is happening, and of course, that is the point: it is a punishment. But, it is a punishment with a start and an end. And at the end I know that I have been restored to my place as my Daddy's girl who he loves and isn't mad at. A spanking lets me pay the price for what I've done and get it over with, and it has helped me to learn how to be a better girl and I think a better person.

And also, the one thing I think this author is wrong about is that the prime spanking age is from 3-7 years old. I think most all of us in this forum know that kids don't stop responding well to a spanking at age 7, and often that is when spankings become very important for the kid. I do think that probably the proper ages for spankings depend on the gender of the child, but that is for a whole nother thread.

That is what I would want for my kids, and as long as they respond to spankings like I did, of course I will be a pro-spanking mom when the time comes. I want them to know I love them, pay attention to them, and that they are forgiven in my eyes. I can think of no other punishment or method of discipline that can do that. That is why I am happy that I was, and am, a girl who is raised with spankings, and why I plan on raising my future-kids the same way.

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11-22-2019 07:00 PM
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Garth Offline
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RE: Magazine Article
Thank you for your comments Sarah. I agree with you totally. I found personally around the age of eight or nine that children prefer to be spanked then other punishments. Even if it is a fairly hard spanking and not a beating as you point out, I believe it improves your relationship with your child and a more open and honest dialogue with your children. It causes children less anxiety as it is predictable as long as your rules are consistent. I think most parents know when it is best to start spanking and when they should end. I think it is rare that a child suffers any psychological damage from being spanked though I think it is possible. As you mentioned if it is done out of love and calmly, it will be your primary method of discipline as the results will speak for themselves.

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11-22-2019 07:30 PM
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Kylesdad Offline
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RE: Magazine Article
A well thought out, and well written article. I wish people would still write like this.

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11-23-2019 11:21 AM
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